There’s no business quite like the food business at this point of time in urban India. In the 15-odd years since Rahul Akerkar opened Indigo in Mumbai and redefined stand-alone dining in the country (read Q&A: Rahul Akerkar), food has evolved from a mere matter of sustenance into something like art. In directional spaces across the country, chefs are delivering food that focuses as much on presentation as taste, articulating thoughts and ideas as wide-ranging as science and sustainability.

For an interactive graphic on our favourite dishes, click here.

But the choice is bewildering. When you have just that one dinner, or two, in a city, where do you go? Follow the celeb chef? Or search for the hole-in-the-wall? Go for grunge? Or home in on luxury?

And once there, the crucial question: What do you order that encapsulates the restaurant, provides a dining memory like no other and gives you bragging rights to, well, dine out on back home? We aren’t talking about the classics here, the Britannias and the Peter Cats (though daulat ki chaat sneaks its way in), but the cutting-edge: the most innovative use of imports, the rediscovery of low-access Indian cuisines, the reimagination of the familiar, when maple syrup meets kokum and risotto is cooked in coconut milk, mustard shows up in a dessert and green pineapple in a soup.

To answer those questions, our writers in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Goa and Kolkata scoured menus, sifted through their own dining experiences, talked to chefs and the cognoscenti and came up with the most exhaustive guide to that eternal question: What do we eat right now?

Delhi

u Mutton Sukka with Ragi Appam

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Café Lota, Pragati Maidan. 270

Dentice all’ Acqua Pazza

It takes great skill to put together a dish that is fresh, delicate and compliments the flavours of the fish. Yet the star of the dish is the light broth. The crunchy leeks, the fragrant celery and the soft, earthy mushrooms are all held together by the superbly cooked, delicate and moist bit of snapper. It’s the interplay of the different elements of the dish, as well as its startling simplicity, that makes this a real standout.

Artusi Ristorante e Bar, Greater Kailash-II. 900

uTagliolino Gamberi e Limone

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Artusi Ristorante e Bar, Greater Kailash-II. 870

Old-fashioned Peking duck

The making of a Peking duck is arduous, but China Kitchen gets it right. The duck is doused in a special marinade and hung for 12 hours before being placed in the oven. The chef brings the duck to the table, deftly carves it close to the bone, and spreads the duck slices in a fan-shape on a platter. All so precise. The flour pancakes in a steamer basket are soft and easy to roll, and you simply assemble it by spreading hoisin sauce, adding the succulent duck and topping with traditional accompaniments like scallions, cucumber and radish. And did we mention the crackling? Just as well, because words cannot do it justice.

The China Kitchen, Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place. 3,588

Chashu Ramen

The ramen, or Japanese egg noodles, can be served in many different forms. Guppy by ai’s Chashu Ramen, which has been on its menu since the restaurant opened in 2013, is the perfect meal in a bowl. The stock or soul of the bowl is its broth, which has a pork and ‘shoyu’ or miso base stewed together for 72 hours. The balance of this salty, fatty and ever so slightly sharp (because of the sesame oil finish) broth makes this an absolute winner. The noodles, the seaweed, vegetables, pork pieces and, of course, the obligatory half-egg take it to another level. Even in summer, with the mercury going above 40 degrees Celsius, your liver would forgive you for having this dish.

Guppy by ai, Lodi Colony. 900

uLamb Confit with Red Onion Jam and Glazed Vegetables

Le Bistro du Parc, Defence Colony. 850

Malleshwaram 18th Cross ‘dosa’

This oddly named ‘dosa’ is quickly acquiring the kind of fan-following you would not expect a simple ‘dosa’ to have. Till you eat one. Thick, yet perfectly crisp, and slathered generously inside with the most aromatic ‘ghee’ (clarified butter) and gunpowder combination you can imagine.

Carnatic Café, New Friends Colony. 140

Chandra Ji’s Mutton Curry

Monkey Bar, Vasant Kunj and Connaught Place. 440

Jardaloo Marghi Ma Salli

A combination of the best flavours of Parsi food—a vinegar-born sourness, a chewy sweetness from the soaked apricots, spicy from the ‘sambhar’ and garam masalas, and a sharp sting from the red chilli powder—all come together in this authentic chicken dish. And if the complex flavours aren’t mind-bending enough, the crisp potato ‘salli’ (sticks) add a layer of crunch, ranking this as one of the best Parsi dishes in Delhi.

Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu, Aurobindo Marg. 395

uBheeda Par Eeda

Courtesy Sodabottleopenerwala
Courtesy Sodabottleopenerwala

SodaBottleOpenerWala, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, and Khan Market, New Delhi. 165

Millefeuille

There are millefeuille and then there is the millefeuille made by L’Opera. For a simple dessert consisting of vanilla custard and puff pastry, this version stands out for the sheer richness of flavour. The buttery, vanilla softness (thanks to the creamy custard) is off set by the slightly salty, crunchy and delicate pastry sheets—it’s diabolical in its simplicity, generous with its ingredients and certainly not for calorie-counters.

L’Opera, various locations in New Delhi. 205

u Panna Cotta ai Fichi e le Mandorle

Courtesy Artusi
Courtesy Artusi

A cross between a panna cotta and a crème caramel, this wonderful little dessert combines the best of both. It comes wobbling to the table, topped with fig jam that’s fresh and packed with flavour, perfectly roasted sliced almonds, and a smidgen of caramel that’s taken to the edge of burning. The panna cotta is smooth and creamy, without a trace of gelatin and with just the right amount of sweetness.

Artusi Ristorante e Bar, Greater Kailash-II. 740

Bhapa Doi Cheesecake

Combine a classic bhapa doi, made with condensed milk and hung yogurt, on a Marie biscuit base and steam for 40 minutes to get this light slice of heaven. Pistachio and almond slivers top this slice. If you are a stickler for the right textures—neither too airy nor too dense and certainly no air bubbles—try this chilled creamy cheesecake, and you will want no other.

Café Lota, Pragati Maidan. 135

Double Chocolate Decadence

This is for people who really like their chocolate, because its layers are a) chocolate mousse cake, b) chocolate fudge cake, and c) a dusting of cocoa powder. The visually arresting layers of rust, tan and dark brown offer varying resistance as you cut through a slice, the light mousse giving way instantly and the darker fudge cake slowing the spoon down. To extract full value for money, each layer has to be included in every mouthful: The fudge cake has enough bite to make the different textures stand apart for a second before the dessert melts in your mouth.

The Big Chill Cafe, various locations in New Delhi. 294 for a slice; 1,975 for a full cake.

Mumbai

Dumplings

Almost all the dim sums here have their fans, but two stand out. The vegetarian Truffle Edamame Dumplings are little parcels of loveliness, holding an extravagant mound of white truffle, edamame, porcini mushrooms and lotus roots blended with truffle oil. The silky smooth skins are slathered in butter and topped with little flecks of chopped sweetcorn and carrot. The Poached Peking Dumplings comprise broth-filled wontons in a pool of soy-chilli sauce, slivers of red chilli and spring onions. Tangy, spicy, full of flavour.

Yauatcha, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai; MG Road, Bengaluru; Ballygunge, Kolkata; Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. Truffle Edamame Dumplings (three pieces): 625; Poached Peking Dumpling (three pieces): 475

Pork Belly Buns

Steamed buns stuffed with Dutch pork belly braised in a Chinese-Japanese-influenced spiced, soy sauce liquid, kimchi, apple butter and fresh greens—this melt-in-the-mouth creation is an addictive balance of buttery meat and sharp notes of crunchy house-special pickles.

Ellipsis, Colaba. 900

Avocado Tartare

Salmon on fire: Yuuka, Palladium Hotel. Rs1,650
Salmon on fire: Yuuka, Palladium Hotel. Rs1,650

Yuuka, Palladium Hotel, Lower Parel. 950

Boneless Chicken Wings

Alex Sanchez, The Table’s American chef, has created a menu of small and large plates marked by global accents. A dish we keep returning for is his unique riff on chicken wings: boneless squares of well-cooked meat doused in a sweet-savoury ginger glaze.

The Table, Colaba. 550

Nadroo Ke Shammi

The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar, Palladium Hotel, Lower Parel. 650.

To Die For Sushi

This all-in-one fusion sushi is actually cream cheese, avocado and crabmeat rolls draped with white fish and topped with spicy mayonnaise and tempura batter. It’s the kind of sushi you’d be embarrassed to order in Japan but one that you simply can’t stop wolfing down because it reminds you of all the other deep-fried snacks you like to devour closer home.

Saizen, Colaba. 1,200

Khao Phad Tom Yum Jae

Imagine the most aromatic Tom Yum soup you’ve ever had, add to that a heady hit of capsaicin and fluffy fried rice loaded with veggies. This tom yum-flavoured vegetarian fried rice is that dish, the one that will make you forget all about jasmine rice and coconut milk-based gravies forever.

O:h Cha, Lower Parel (West). 500

Ohn Thamin/Coconut Rice with Peanut Chutney

The most joyous food memories are often linked to discovering something so unfamiliar that it excites all your senses in one bite. So skip the khow suey here and get the Ohn Thamin. The sticky rice cooked in coconut milk is a vegetarian party in a bowl with raisins, crunchy peanuts and deep-fried onion slivers in a curious, tangy tomato-based curry.

Burma Burma, Fort. 280

Spicy Samgyeopsal

The pork belly is marinated with bulgogi sauce and Korean chilli paste and barbecued on a hot plate right at your table till the small, slender pieces are just the right degree of crisp. The marinade adds a savoury taste to the rich pork belly, and when you dip it in the sweet-and-spicy ssamjang sauce served on the side, it makes for a great mix of flavours. Simple and superb.

Heng Bok, Bandra (West). 1,000

u Tandoori Pork Spare Ribs

Photo: Devendra Parab/Mint
Photo: Devendra Parab/Mint

The Bombay Canteen, Lower Parel (West). 550

Wasabi Chicken

Kofuku, Bandra (West). 620

Pan Seared John Dory + Sundried Tomato + Sunflower Seed Risotto

Salt Water Café was one of the first Mumbai restaurants to use John Dory, a fish that is meaty yet soft. For this dish, they first roast it in brown butter, cutting the richness with some sweetness and citrus; it is then marinated in sundried tomato powder and lemon juice and served on a bed of cooked sunflower seeds and a kaffir lime-enriched risotto.

Salt Water Café, Bandra and Churchgate. 830

Chorizo rice

The only way to mess up a chorizo dish is by adding too many other flavours to it. This chorizo rice is just rice fried with chorizo and chorizo fat. This is, honestly, a dish you will find in most Goan homes but Imbiss somehow gets the rice to be moist, underlined when you break the yolk of the fried egg that garnishes the dish. Simplicity, cleverly done.

Imbiss, Bandra. 190

Braised Mutton Chaamp, Maple and Kokum Glaze and Bhindi Jaipuri, Papad Ki Subzi, Hand Pounded Churma

Our favourites at this perennially booked restaurant are the maple and kokum-glazed mutton champ and the bhindi Jaipuri with a papad sabzi and churma. The fall-off-the-bone ribs are generously seasoned with cracked black pepper, sweet and tangy kokum and maple glaze. A creamy dahi curry poured over crisped ‘bhindi’, and the spicy and crunchy debris of crushed papads lends a delicious tang to the dish.

Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Bandra-Kurla Complex. Braised Mutton Chaamp: 695; Bhindi Jaipuri: 550

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

The Hakkasan classic is so much like a birthday cake. There’s absolutely no way you can devour it on your own and you’ll want to tell the world about it. Firm, meaty fillets of imported silver cod, that taste like they’ve just been fished out of the ocean, are cooked and served in the most decadent but light beurre blanc enhanced with the sweetness and acidity of Champagne, mirin (Japanese rice wine), lemon juice and honey. Finished with picture-perfect Chinese wolfberries, chive slivers and a deep-fried lotus stem chip, this one deserves a birthday party of its own.

Hakkasan Mumbai, Bandra (West). 3,650

u Rocky Road

Ellipsis, Colaba. 750

Dark hot chocolate

This decadent dessert is the perfect instance of Suzette’s uncompromising commitment to serving the food they love. Made with just warm skimmed milk and Barry Callebaut chocolate, its perfect swirls are where childhood treats meet a dangerously grown-up beverage.

Suzette, Nariman Point and Bandra West. 170

Tres leches

Sponge cake, soaked in evaporated milk and condensed milk for 12 hours, so as to absorb all the richness, which is further enhanced by heavy cream, and another dollop of evaporated milk when it is served. Instant feelgoodness.

Sancho’s, multiple locations across Mumbai. 250

Raspberry delice

The petit gateau tastes as good as it looks—it’s soft, velvety and scarlet red outside is only outdone by the glossy chocolate mousse, tart raspberry purée and gooey hazelnut brownie it holds. With so many components fighting each other to the top, it’s obvious the Raspberry Delice is an all-rounder.

Yauatcha, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai; MG Road, Bengaluru; Ballygunge, Kolkata; Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. 350

Covered in gold dust, the miniature disco ball is a study in scarlet raspberries and dark chocolate. A warm, salted dark chocolate sauce is poured over the 54% Barry Callebaut bitter cacao shell to uncover a raspberry and chocolate mousse filling with traces of toasted hazelnut and a raspberry marshmallow centre. A candied orange segment, crumbly dark chocolate soil and a hazelnut praline ice cream are the other merry makers on the plate.

Hakkasan Mumbai, Bandra (West). 500

u Rouge Velour

La Folie Pâtisserie, Fort and Lower Parel. 260

Bengaluru

u Green Pineapple And Basil Gazpacho

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

A sweet, and a little sour, soup of pineapple and beetroot is served with a dollop of apple tartare that is topped with beetroot ice cream. Basil adds a peppery fragrance to this refreshing, cold soup.

Caperberry, Vittal Mallya Road. Part of the pre-fixed menu, 750 (two-course) and 950 (three-course).

Summer Roll (Veg)

The problem with most spring rolls is that the deep-fried casing is too often a cover, literally and metaphorically, for the limp, recycled stuffing. The Summer Roll at Phobidden Fruit, served cold, take deep-frying out of the equation and showcases the crunchy freshness of the vegetables and the lightness of the rice-paper wrapping. Dip into the sweet-sour-spicy sauce and munch away. You have summer, who needs spring?

Phobidden Fruit, Indiranagar. 175 (for four pieces).

Seared Scallops

This delicate appetizer is a sure winner. Medium-sized scallops are seared on each side for a few seconds, and served with a mildly flavoured cauliflower purée, a citrus vinaigrette for tanginess, and a romesco sauce for a nutty and peppery flavour.

Graze, Vivanta by Taj, MG Road. 550 (for three pieces).

uChar Siu Bao

Photo: Courtesy Kunal Chandra
Photo: Courtesy Kunal Chandra

The Fatty Bao, Indiranagar. 275

Erachi Cutlet

Think Kerala food and you will think grand, hearty, spicy dishes—the stews, curries and biryanis that point to the state’s rich cultural history. But tucked away in Enté Keralam’s vast menu is this dish of crumb-fried beef mince patties packed with spices. Perfect to accompany your toddy or beer. The only thing better than that is the fresh beetroot dipping sauce, which adds tartness and lightness to the dense cutlet.

Enté Keralam, Ulsoor. 195

Mini Mezzah Cold & Hot platter

There are a couple of things to know about the Mini Mezzah for one person. First, it’s not for one person (unless it’s the only thing you will be eating that night or the next day). Second, you can chop and change the parts of mezzah, adding more of one and less of another. The platter comprises hummus, ‘mutabbal’, vine leaves, falafel, cheese ‘sambousek’ and spinach ‘fatayer’. And unlimited, freshly made pita bread. The best stuff: the vine leaves, cold, tart and moist, and the spinach ‘fatayer’, a small triangle of pastry with a spinach filling. Unlike anything you’ve had. The ‘sambousek’, hummus and ‘mutabbal’ are all very good but the falafel is passable. That’s the one to drop for extra ‘fatayer’.

Byblos, Indiranagar. 500

Brie en Croute

Olive Beach, Wood Street. 395

Laham Mandi

Finding this restaurant is a bit of a feat—it’s located in a tiny lane off a busy one-way road—but finding the star of its extensive menu is much easier. The ‘laham mandi’ is a cross between a biryani and ‘pulao’, an enormous platter of rice with a joint of mutton nestling on it. There’s little masala in it, the meat and rice appear to have been simply cooked together, and the ensemble is so bland it doesn’t appear Indian in any way (in fact, it’s Arabian). But the magic is in the flavour—the rice, the mutton (the meat falling off the bone) and the stock/soup that they serve on the side. If you want to spice it up ask for the chutneys du jour but first sample the dish as is.

Ta’aam, Queen’s Road Cross. 330

Chicken Ghee Roast

Not altogether an unusual dish—in fact, every Mangalurean kitchen would have a family recipe—this one stands out for its unapologetic sinfulness and succulence. Marinated in yogurt, coloured a fiery red from a judicious mix of hot and mild dried chillies, enhanced by roasted spices and brought together with generous lashings of ghee, this is a dry dish that is as good by itself, as a bar-snack with some chilled beer, or mixed with a plateful of white or red rice. When calories taste so good, they’re worth the extra round on the treadmill.

Kanua, Sarjapur Road. 415

Slow Cooked Lamb Massaman Curry

Perhaps the most enticing part of the curry is the long, meaty shank, protruding gracefully from the edge of the big black bowl as it is brought to the table. But that’s only before the aroma hits the olfactory senses—creamy, spicy, deep. Dig in, and the caramel-coloured, peanutty broth reveals baby potatoes, shallots and more pieces of lamb. The meat falls off the bone at the gentlest touch, but the curry is so moreish, you’re tempted to cast aside the chopsticks and reach for the unfashionable fork, the better for a heartier mouthful.

The Fatty Bao, Indiranagar. 425

u Ambe Upkari

Photo: Courtesy Kanua
Photo: Courtesy Kanua

Is it a sweet dish? Is it a main course? Or an accompaniment? Eaten with rice, ‘rotis’, or ‘sannas’? So many questions surrounding this dish, only one answer: It doesn’t really matter. The ripe mango curry is sweet, but the undertones of red chilli and mustard seeds keep the mind guessing. The mango itself is a delight—fleshy, squishy, juicy. The only way to eat Ambe Upkari is with your hand, the gravy mixed with hot rice. Mangalurean cuisine has many famous non-veg dishes, but this one stands up to the best of them.

Kanua, Sarjapur. 295

Alleppey Meen Curry

Tangy, spicy, with a depth of flavour that is a refreshing contrast to the more popular—if cloying—coconut-based curries of the region, this is a summer favourite because of the tartness imparted by the judicious use of raw mango. Great with red rice or even ‘appam’, if you want to eschew the ‘ishtew’.

Enté Keralam, Ulsoor. 395

8 Hour Lamb

Olive Beach, Wood Street. 725

Coconut milk and prawn risotto

How far can you stretch that Italian standard-bearer, the risotto? Well, how about as far as Thailand? Cooked in creamy coconut milk, flavoured with lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, bird’s-eye chilli and prawns, and studded with skinned cherry tomatoes, this is a risotto that manages to comfort even as it surprises, one forkful at a time.

Olive Beach, Wood Street. 395 (lunch) and 495 (dinner, with a larger portion)

u Pandi & Pita

Photo: Courtesy Kunal Chandra
Photo: Courtesy Kunal Chandra

Monkey Bar, Wood Street and Indiranagar, Bengaluru; Vasant Kunj and Connaught Place, New Delhi. 380

Dahi Bheeda With Fried Onions and Rotlis

It’s not often that you have people at the table asking for second and third helpings of okra, but this delicious Parsi way seems to make the rather badmouthed ‘bhindi’ the belle of the ball. Fried crisp and then smothered in a generous, spiced-up yogurt mix, the okra comes into its own, the controlled mucilage revealing itself in an unexpected juiciness when you bite into it. The thin, hand-sized ‘rotlis’ are perfect to scoop up the okra.

Red Fork Contemporary Café, Indiranagar. 220

Gourmet Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate, you think. No big deal, an overrated hangover from ‘Archie’ comics. One sip of the Gourmet Hot Chocolate, though, will change your mind forever. Thick, rich and creamy, it’s got rum and brandy (perfect for Bengaluru’s always cool evenings) and various spices. Forget the detail; sip it and allow each layer to unfold gently, allowing you to reflect on the meal you’ve just had and the possibilities that lie ahead. This is chocolate at its sinful best; the marshmallows, soft and melty as they are, could be easily overlooked.

Olive Beach, Wood Street. 275

uSlow Cooked Apples and Filo Pastry Slice

Photo: Sanjay Ramchandran
Photo: Sanjay Ramchandran

The Fatty Bao, Indiranagar. 210

Kolkata

uChili Pickle n Cheese Baked Crab With Kolmi Greens

Photo: Courtesy Bohemian
Photo: Courtesy Bohemian

Bohemian, Old Ballygunge. 349

Sea Salt Roasted Dry Figs Salad

In the heat and humidity of Kolkata, this is an instant refresher. It brings together salty-and-sweet dried figs with crunchy apples and walnuts with shavings of celery, the strong flavours playing off against the mild-tasting young Gouda. The touch of genius, though, is the piquant pomegranate dressing that holds it all together, making each forkful a burst of flavours on the palate.

The Corner Courtyard, Sarat Bose Road. 280

Spinach + Ricotta Ravioli

It isn’t often that a chain produces a better take of a dish in one location—as opposed to a standardized version everywhere—but the Kolkata franchise of this restaurant does something really special with this simple, rustic plate of vegetarian pasta. It won’t win any points for visual appeal, but the basic compatibility of the core ingredients—spinach, tomato, capers and an olive tapenade—and the honesty of approach shines through.

Smoke House Deli, Ballygunge. 430

Pabda Rolls Stewed in Cherry Tomato and Spinach Broth

Even in a restaurant known for constantly pushing the boundaries, this light, summary dish is a groundbreaker. It features river-fish pabda fillets wrapped around long beans and stewed in a tomato-spinach broth seasoned with the typically Bengali radhuni (celery seeds) and kasundi’ (mustard sauce). Served with a pilaf tossed with crushed ‘bodi’ (sundried lentil nuggets), this main dish calls for a siesta right afterwards.

Bohemian, Old Ballygunge, Kolkata. 449

uGrilled bluewater stuffed calamari

Photo: Courtesy The Corner Courtyard
Photo: Courtesy The Corner Courtyard

The Corner Courtyard, Sarat Bose Road. 560

uOsso Buco

Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

Pan-seared with olive oil and then glazed with a good red wine, this main dish develops deep layers of flavour as it is cooked with skinned tomatoes on a slow fire till the meat—always a beef shank; osso buco literally means “bone with a hole"—is ready to fall off the bone. It comes to the table with a helping of saffron risotto, the meat and the rice singing in harmony of plenty and comfort. There is no more satisfying end to a day.

West View, ITC Sonar, opposite Science City. 1,450

Goa

Syrian Beef Fry

Gunpowder, Assagao. 400

Lamb Gyro Wrap

This Lamb Gyro Wrap is the perfect thing to grab at a brunch or lunch after a night out in Goa. The yogurt-based tzatziki sauce is not too sweet, the spices are not overpowering and the pita bread is light and fluffy. But the best part of the wrap is the juices from the crisp lamb that drip into your mouth as you bite into it. Gyro wraps can be done in various styles; this one is in the traditional style of Corfu, Greece. The lamb is not cooked in a traditional gyro machine but prepared in the oven for about two and a half hours with Greek herbs and olive oil.

Thalassa, Little Vagator. 350

u Inspired Chorizo Pav

Photo: Revati Upadhya
Photo: Revati Upadhya

The Black Sheep Bistro, Altinho, Panaji. 195

Beef Carpaccio

Perfectly tenderized and thinly sliced, very few restaurants in Goa get a beef carpaccio this right. The meat is flavoured with a delicate combination of herbs in which it is cured and the dish comes beautifully plated, served with a mild dressing and tiny toasties/crostinis to add crunch to this otherwise melt-in-your-mouth dish.

I-95, Nagoa Saligao, Bardez. 350

u Luchi and Aloo Dum Cocktail Sticks

Photo: Revati Upadhya
Photo: Revati Upadhya

Mustard, Sangolda. 260.

Pistachio Kheer Sandwich

The Pistachio Kheer Sandwich is quite literally a tower of dollops of rich rice kheer sandwiched between flat, crispy ginger cookies. It is spiced with cardamom and nutmeg and served with a lemony crème anglaise that cuts through the sweetness just perfectly. Simple, but delightfully complex.

The Black Sheep Bistro, Altinho, Panaji. 150

u Brownie à la Mustard

Mustard, Sangolda. 200

Chennai

u Pan-Fried Homemade Ricotta With Raisins, Strawberry and Tomato Compote

Photo: Courtesy The Flying Elephant
Photo: Courtesy The Flying Elephant

Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt, Velachery Road. 495

Quatro Formaggi pizza

Combining four cheeses that play off each other—fresh and smoked mozzarella, sharp blue cheese and nutty Parmesan—on their signature tomato sauce base and topped with olives and jalapeños, this pizza packs a wallop in taste. The cheapest ticket to Italy.

Tuscana Pizzeria, Nungambakkam, East Coast Road and Nandanam. 9-inch pizza for 650; 12-inch for 695

Baked Camembert with Honey Garlic Reduction

Garlic and honey, reduced to a sticky thickness, and poured over Camembert, a soft cheese, and baked for intense flavours. Try stopping at one mouthful of this mains.

On The Rocks, Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers, Alwarpet. 700

Salted Butter Caramel ice cream with fleur de sel

Thick, creamy and enriched by fleur de sel, this ice cream gets the balance of the sweetness of caramel and the saltiness just right.

Amadora, Nungambakkam. 200 per scoop.

Pune

Fresh Zucchini salad

The zucchini is sliced wafer thin, and sits in an elegant high heap in the centre of the plate, with the cherry tomato and lemon zest bringing a double-barrelled piquancy to it all. The zest manages to be flavourful and soft, creating, along with little granules of the Grana Padano, a nice little point-counterpoint on the palate. You’ll find yourself wrestling with the staff to not take the plate away till you’ve mopped up every little bit of the lemon vinaigrette and basil dressing on the plate.

Le Plaisir, Bhandarkar Road. 250

Mutton Tambda Rassa

The Kolhapuri tambda (red) rassa has for long been a true test of a person’s chilli-tolerance. At 96 K, they serve it mercilessly fiery and you’ll find yourself asking for more, especially if they also serve the kinder pandhra (white) rassa as a side-serve. It’s best eaten with jowar bhakri or vade (mulit-grain puris) and other thali ( 469) components like a sabji, a koshimbir and some kokum kadhi. Be prepared to sweat-and-weep and yet come out smiling.

96 K, FC Road. 160

Ahmedabad

uPanki

Photo: Courtesy The House of MG
Photo: Courtesy The House of MG

Greenhouse—The House of MG, Lal Darwaja. 220

Plateful of surprises

Call it a ‘thali’ or a tasting menu, we love a composite meal. Our picks

The Agashiye ‘thali’

Photo: Courtesy The House of MG
Photo: Courtesy The House of MG

Agashiye—The House of MG, Lal Darwaja, Ahmedabad. 700 (lunch) and 660 (dinner).

The Chef’s Tasting Menu at Indian Accent

This menu has always been about a balance between what customers define as their deepest dining desires and what chef Manish Mehrotra can do to take them on a fantastical journey. The current menu (available through summer) starts with the Potato Sphere Chaat with White Pea Ragda, combining the expected crunch with a surprising sour softness. The Duck Khurchan Cornetto is served upright in a chai glass full of fried moong dal. The chef’s expertise in pushing the envelope without losing the basic form of the dish is exemplified in the Prawn Pakoda with Lime Pickle Cream and the sweet, savoury, slightly chilli Meetha Achaar Chilean Spare Ribs. The Rice-Crusted John Dory Moilee, an old star, stages a comeback, while the Bajra Parmesan Khichdi is a spicy new addition from the chef’s work with the in-house spa. And for dessert, of course, there is Daulat Ki Chaat. No more needs to be said.

Indian Accent, The Manor hotel, Friends Colony (West), New Delhi. 2,895 (non-vegetarian) and 2,795 (vegetarian).

Tian Trailer 3

Presentation, flavour and textures are the hallmark of this menu. Starting with the sweet and salty fishiness of the Compressed Watermelon and Salmon Salad, followed by the Miso Feta Mousse Cranberry Stuffed Olive, Prawn and Scallop, Pomelo Salad, Lemon Grass Veloute, Sambal Espuma, and on to the Sous Vide Black Cod with Nyonya Paste and Roasted Eggplant and Kaffir Lime Mash and Australian lamb Panang Curry—each of the seven courses maintains a balance between the Asian touches and the freshness of the ingredients. Palate orgasm.

Tian, ITC Maurya, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. 5,000

The Royal Vega Thali

Royal Vega, ITC Grand Chola, Guindy, Chennai. Rs3,000
Royal Vega, ITC Grand Chola, Guindy, Chennai. Rs3,000

This is a selection of signature veg dishes from the Ayurveda-based, season-friendly Royal Vega menu, including Paneer Khasa (handcrafted, tomato-flavoured cottage cheese), Pithi Poori (home-made whole wheat bread spiced with coriander seeds, red chilli and fennel) and Ganika (basmati cooked with jasmine flowers), which finishes with Kanak Halva, a pudding of apricots and walnuts flavoured with rose water.

Royal Vega, ITC Grand Chola, Guindy, Chennai. 3,000

For an interactive graphic on our favourite dishes, click here.

The prices mentioned are exclusive of taxes.

With contributions from Prerna Makhija, Dustin Silgardo and Purva Mehra in Mumbai; Rudraneil Sengupta, Aparna Jain, Bikramjit Ray and Chanpreet Khurana in New Delhi; Priyadarshini Nandy in Bengaluru; Latha Srinivasan in Chennai and Revati Upadhya in Goa. Additional inputs by Gouri Dange, Nandita Amin, Gautam John and Ranjit Mankeshwar.

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